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Move in the right direction

Charlestown’s Around Town Tour helps new residents navigate their hometown

Created date

April 17th, 2018
Seniors enjoying a bus ride.

Erickson Living residents enjoy a range of transportation services—both on campus and off—for day trips and outings, errands, doctors' appointments, and more.

New to Catonsville and looking for a good place to get a bite to eat? Wondering where to find the public library? Or maybe you’re searching for the nearest Walmart? Have no fear, Charlestown’s Around Town Tour has got you covered.

For the last 12 years, Doris Cooney, organizer and guide of the Around Town Tour has been showing residents of Charlestown where to find everything from the post office to the best shrimp salad sandwich in town. A resident of Charlestown for 21 years, Doris is a member of the Friendly Visitor’s Committee, a group of neighbors who help newcomers get acquainted with the surrounding community.

“I often find people new to the community asking me, ‘Where’s the post office?’ ‘Where is the library?’ ‘Is there a Sam’s Club around here?’ ‘How about Home Depot, how do you get to that?’ says Doris, who moved from Montgomery County, Md. “They seem to be acquainted with Charlestown itself, but they don’t know anything about the Catonsville-Arbutus area, so a tour seemed like a great idea.”

Doris proposed the idea to Charlestown’s management team and suggested the tour be free of charge. They agreed, and the first tour launched on October 3, 2006.

“It’s just myself and two other women,” says Doris. “We take turns leading the tours. The tours are held every month of the year except January. Amazingly, in the 12 years we have been doing this, we have never had to cancel a trip due to bad weather.”

Getting acquainted with Catonsville

Around Town Tours are open to all Charlestown residents and run the first Tuesday of every month from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. Due to popularity, reservations on the 14-passenger shuttle bus are required in advance.

“If this is your first trip, it can be overwhelming,” says Doris. “It’s a lot of information being thrown at you at once. Before we go, we give out a map so you can follow along with the route and mark off places you may be interested in. We also give you a printed history of Charlestown that was written by one of our residents.”

Originally, the Around Town Tours were designed for newcomers to Charlestown, but once word got out, Doris found more and more people who had lived in the community for months and even years signing up.

“I hear people who have lived here for quite some time say, ‘Oh I didn’t know we had a Panera Bread around here.’ Or, ‘I didn’t know that there was a park there,’” says Doris. “We point out restaurants and interesting businesses that they may not know about, like SugarBakers, a popular bakery for specialty cakes. We also offer insider tips, like the best places to park at the Catonsville Library.”

So nice, he toured twice

Hank Thompson, who moved to Charlestown 24 years ago, took the Around Town Tour a decade ago and signed up for a second time last year.

“It wasn’t so much that I needed to take the tour because I wasn’t new to the area. I just found it enjoyable, and so I thought I would go again,” says Hank. “It’s a very good tour and very educational for people who are new to Catonsville and not familiar with the area. It’s also a great way for new people to meet other residents.”

Doris says she will continue to give the tours sponsored by the Charlestown transportation department as long as there’s interest. Currently, there is a waiting list.

“It’s been very well received, and it’s a lot of fun!” says Doris. “I never get tired of doing it because there is a new group of people every month, which keeps it interesting. It’s a nice opportunity for people to get acquainted with their neighbors and meet new people. I wish they had something like this when I first moved.”

In addition to the free Around Town Tours, Charlestown neighbors also enjoy complimentary transportation anywhere on the 110-acre campus any day of the week, as well as within a designated distance to nearby grocery stores and the post office. For a nominal fee, residents can ride in comfort to local doctors' offices, superstores like Walmart, The Mall in Columbia, and downtown destinations like the Meyerhoff and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.